Northeastern B.C. drought leads to energy industry water cutbacks

Peace region water levels expected to continue falling


Northeastern B.C. drought conditions have caused the B.C. Oil & Gas Commission to order cutbacks in water diversions at oil and gas industry operations.

“Water levels are anticipated to continue dropping until significant rain falls in the area,” a commission directive said.

“Limit the application to water volumes and points of diversion that are realistic to the specific operational needs for the upcoming months,” a June 12 directive said.

As of May 31, drought conditions in the Fort Nelson region were considered very dry, which the provincial government says means “potentially serious ecosystem or socio-economic impacts are possible.”  

The rest of the Peace region is one level below, signalling potential future problems.

Parts of the region are also facing moderate to high forest fire ratings.

Vancouver Island is also facing very dry conditions.

The commission directive was made under the Water Sustainability Act, and includes rivers, streams and lakes in multiple watersheds.

The directive said low stream flow conditions are escalating concerns for impacts to fish, aquatic resources and community supply in the watershed basins.

The commission said it would work with industry to identify water options during the drought period and that some streams may recover sufficiently to allow withdrawals.

Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers spokesman Geoff Morrison said companies are prepared for seasonal fluctuations in water availability for operations.
“Engineers plan for these kinds of things,” he said, noting the industry “proactively stores and recycles water.”

The Ministry of Environment and Climate Strategy referred questions to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, which referred queries back to the commission.